Symptoms of esophagitis vary depending on the cause of the inflammation. The most common sign is heartburn (a burning sensation under the breastbone that may move up to the throat). If the inflammation is severe, swallowing may be painful.
Causes and Risk Factors of Esophagitis
Several factors can cause esophagitis, including:
- Gastroesphageal reflux disease (GERD). The most common risk factor for esophagitis, GERD causes acid and partially digested food to flow from the stomach back up the esophagus, irritating the lining.
- Infections caused by fungus, bacteria or viruses. These occur most often in people whose immune systems are not working well.
- Pills. Esophagitis can result when a swallowed pill gets stuck in the throat and burns the lining, usually when not enough liquid was used to wash down the pill. It may also occur if the esophagus does not contract properly or is narrowed because of a scar.
- Injury from chemicals. When a strong chemical (e.g., drain cleaner or household cleaner) is swallowed. This can be very severe, even life threatening.